Gain Setting on ARC Preamp

To Howard Kneller,

I was searching the Internet to understand what the Audio Research LS27’s gain settings do when I came across your great review. First, as a former recording engineer (from the '70s through the '80s), I appreciate your reverence for the 808.

You noted ARC recommended you listen using the highest gain setting. Any explanation why? Do you have any views on the qualities and the reason for such a recommendation?

I have the LS27 paired with ARC Reference 210s and Sonus Faber Amati Anniversario speakers. My previous "real" stereo had a PS Audio preamp, which had a switch that essentially made the preamp a straight wire with the potentiometer, as you describe, but amazing transparency came with that mode.

I know it all comes down to what you like (and I love to crank rock with the High setting), but I am trying to understand what ARC is doing with the three settings and now, why they recommend High.

Thanks much!
Stacy Baird

Thanks for your e-mail. My review of the LS27 was several years ago. However, as stated in my review, I used the highest gain setting based on Audio Research's advice and the characteristics of my components at the time. Unfortunately, I don't recall what impressions I had, if any, with the lower settings.

I checked with Audio Research's Dave Gordon and he had the following to say about the issue: "The gain of the LS27 is 24/18/12dB via its balanced outputs, 18/12/6dB via its single-ended outputs (High/Medium/Low). The full "native" gain of the circuit is 24dB balanced, 18dB single-ended. The Medium and Low outputs simply attenuate the full gain of the LS27, with a slight loss of information. We do this because some people need the full 24dB BAL/18dB SE of gain; for other people that is too much gain, depending on the output level of the source (CD player, tuner, phono stage, etc.) and the sensitivity of the amplifier. If it is usable, the High gain setting will provide the most transparency, detail and dynamics because there is no attenuation."

I am glad to find someone out there who also appreciates the 808s. Most people don't know how good or influential they were. I hope this helps. . . . Howard Kneller